Children with disabilities four times as likely be to victims of violence as children who are not disabled

July 11, 2012

About 5% of children worldwide (around 93 million children) have a moderate or severe disability. Although children with disabilities are thought to be at greater risk of violence, this is the first study to quantify the prevalence and magnitude of that risk.

After searching systematically for studies over the past twenty years containing data on the prevalence of violence against disabled children, Mark Bellis from Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK and colleagues identified 17 studies including over 18 000 children (mostly aged 2 years) from the USA, UK, Sweden, Finland, Spain, and Israel.

They found that more than a quarter (26.7%) of have been exposed to some type of violence (physical, sexual, , or neglect) during their lifetime. Lifetime levels of physical (20.4%) and (13.7%) were also high in these children.

Although individual studies varied, overall they estimated that disabled children are at nearly four times greater risk of experiencing violence than those without a disability, at least three times more likely to be exposed to , and have nearly three times the risk of sexual violence.

What is more, children with mental or appear to have a higher risk of sexual violence (odds ratio 4.62) than both children with other types of disability and those without a disability. Risk estimates for other types of disability could not be calculated because of insufficient data.

According to Bellis, "The impact of a child's disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them. This research establishes that the risk of violence to children with is routinely three to four times higher than that of non-. It is the duty of government and civil society to ensure that such victimisation is exposed and prevented."*

He adds, "Estimates are missing for most regions of the world, particularly low-income and middle-income countries. This is a fundamental gap that needs to be addressed because these countries generally have higher population rates of disability, higher levels of violence, and fewer support services than do high-income countries."

Commenting on the paper, Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, which contributed to the study, says, "The results of this review prove that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, and their needs have been neglected for far too long. We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for with disabilities. An agenda needs to be set for action."

In a linked Comment, Emily Lund and Jessica Vaughn-Jensen from Texas A&M University in the USA say, "Researchers need to target under-represented disability groups…[to] provide a clear picture of the interactions between the type of disability and risk for and maltreatment. Future research should seek to strengthen our knowledge through rigorous studies with diverse populations, both in terms of nationality and type of disability."

Explore further: One in four adults with mental illness have been victim of violence in the past year

More information: Paper: www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … (12)60692-8/abstract

Related Stories

One in four adults with mental illness have been victim of violence in the past year

February 27, 2012
Adults with disabilities are at much greater risk of violence than adults without disabilities, according to a new meta-analysis published Online First in The Lancet. Adults with mental illness appear to be particularly vulnerable ...

Men with disabilities 4 times more likely to be sexually abused than men without disabilities

October 11, 2011
Previous studies have documented that women with disabilities are more likely to be sexually assaulted than women without disabilities. A new study published online today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is ...

Recommended for you

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...

India has avoided 1 million child deaths since 2005, new study concludes

September 19, 2017
India has avoided about 1 million deaths of children under age five since 2005, driven by significant reductions in mortality from pneumonia, diarrhea, tetanus and measles, according to new research published today.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers

September 19, 2017
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists ...

Study suggests link between youth football and later-life emotional, behavioral impairment

September 19, 2017
A new study has found an association between participation in youth tackle football before age 12 and impaired mood and behavior later in life. The study appears in Nature's Translational Psychiatry.

Self-confidence affected by teammates, study finds

September 19, 2017
A person's confidence in their own ability varies significantly depending on who is in their team, according to new research from the University of Stirling.

Video game boosts sex health IQ and attitudes in minority teens

September 18, 2017
A videogame designed by Yale researchers to promote health and reduce risky behavior in teens improves sexual health knowledge and attitudes among minority youth, according to a new study. The findings validate the value ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
not rated yet Jul 12, 2012
It is as if our species have an inherent contempt for "weakness".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.